Written by Robbie Friesen – Youth Pastor @ La Salle Community Fellowship
In the book of Leviticus, God introduced something called the festival of booths, a yearly festival that continues to this day. The festival begins with everyone building an outdoor tent and then living in it for seven days. It was instituted to remember the 40 years the Israelites lived in tents under God’s protection. Recently, it was stated that this festival was also a great equalizer of the people. No matter your occupation, income or age, you were to live outside in a tent with all of God’s people. It would seem as though this festival may be an excellent lens through which to view our pandemic. No matter one’s occupation, income, age, or anything else, everyone has been faced with living in the midst of this together.
We start to see the differences in the different ways people react today, to this great equalizer. Some choose to ignore this festival and go on living as if nothing in the world has changed. Others take great caution to make sure their tents are precisely in accordance with the law. Finally, the third and largest camp accepts the reality of this time and looks for ways to acknowledge the festival and find unique ways of continuing their lives.
Our church has found itself living in the third camp for the past 15 months. There is an acceptance that COVID is among us and a desire to find ways to live well through it. A recent example of this was the SOAR program run by Multiply at the end of March. SOAR is a regular on the church’s calendar year and a time of unparalleled growth for many young people. As SOAR approached, our church had two main questions to wrestle through. What does success look like this year, and how might God use our circumstances to reveal himself to us?
The first question was tough to work through. In a typical year, it is easy to see what a successful SOAR looks like. Large gatherings of countless youth on fire for Jesus, people choosing to give up vacations and holidays to serve the inner city of Winnipeg and finally, the sights of Jesus overtaking their lives as they surrender their hearts to God. This was a hard vision to give up. However, with our numbers dwindling and restrictions making it impossible for churches to gather together, we needed a new vision of success. Our church decided to make the event open to all ages and encouraged church members to attend sessions over the five days.
It was in this place that God met our church. Not in a room bustling with young energy as the songs of praise rose to God, but in a small circle with one youth and nine devoted pillars of the church.
Along with members from the Multiply team, we sat in silence and listened for the voice of God together. It did not take long for a particular image to rise to the forefront of our time together. A simple image of a shipwrecked boat with a broken mast filled with sailors trying to get the ship to work again. For those unfamiliar with the church in La Salle, this boat represented an accurate depiction of the state of our church family. Shipwrecked, a broken mast, and a group of people looking to make it go again.
As we continued listening, God placed our members on the boat itself. We laughed, cried and rejoiced as we understood the vital role that each person in the circle had in repairing, organizing and encouraging the restoration of our church body. At the end of our time together, it was evident that God used our circumstances to show up to our larger church body in a way we were not expecting.
But this is not where the story ends for our church. A few weeks later, the Leadership Team met and wrestled with this same image. As we spoke together, we once again noticed new things, we reshaped our idea of what God wanted from our church, and we prayed for guidance and discernment as we moved after God’s heart.
Finally, this image emerged one final time in the course of our church life. In a conversation with a pastoral candidate, the Leadership Team asked Kevin Dyck where he saw himself in this image. His answer was a true testament to God’s direction to our church. It would seem as if his role filled the very gap that would aid our church in unifying itself once again. This is just one reason why our church is so excited to welcome him onto our Pastoral Staff this summer!
So what have we learned from all of this? It seems as though there was something divine about the origins of this year’s SOAR program. God challenged our church to leave our comfort and predictable models of success for something new. To live outdoors as an equalized people to make space for God to work. He brought together a group of devoted parishioners to share a vision of where the church was now; as well as where the church is going. We are moving after this mission with the help of everyone in the room and the future help that he would send.
I’m not sure what the context of your church’s ship is. It could be broken. It could be a well-oiled machine. It could be that you’re overflowing and ready to put another ship in the water! In any event, God is calling you to find yourself on the waters with a gift and a task. Will you choose to enter into this to bring about God’s glory here on earth?